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Top 10 British Athletes of All Time

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Jack Beresford
They’re the very best of British and the cream of the crop. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, where today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 best British athletes of all time. For this list, we’re looking back at some of the greatest feats of British sporting achievement and the men and women behind them. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 British Athletes of All Time


They’re the very best of British and the cream of the crop. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, where today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 best British athletes of all time.

For this list, we’re looking back at some of the greatest feats of British sporting achievement and the men and women behind them.

#10: Roger Banister
Runner (1946-54)


The late, great, Roger Banister CBE, made history on the 6th of May, 1954, when he became the first man to break the four-minute mile. It was a feat made all the more remarkable for the fact that he achieved it with little in the way of training. A Commonwealth and European Championship gold medallist in his younger days, Banister set himself the target of running a mile in under four minutes after missing out on a medal at the 1952 Olympics. He subsequently retired from athletics to practise medicine and was knighted in 1975.

#9: Tanni Grey-Thompson
Wheelchair Racing (1988-2006)


One of the most successful disabled athletes in British history, Tanni Grey-Thompson helped put the Paralympic games on the map during the 1980s and 1990s. Born with spina bifida and a wheelchair user from an early age, Tanni first began competing on the international stage in 1988 and went on to rack up a staggering 11 Paralympic gold medals across a variety of events. The holder of 30 different world records and a six-time London marathon winner, Grey-Thompson has gone on to enjoy a career in politics and is a member of the House of Lords.

#8: Lewis Hamilton
Formula One (2007-)


Regarded as one of the best Formula 1 drivers in the history of the sport, Lewis Hamilton has racked up three World Championships to date during stints with McLaren and later Mercedes. His aggressive driving style might not have won him many friends on the track, but Hamilton has racked up more career points and more victories than any other British driver ever. He also holds the record for the most wins at different circuits and the all-time most pole positions after surpassing Michael Schumacher’s total of 68.

#7: Jessica Ennis-Hill
Heptathlon (2005-16)


Jessica Ennis-Hill went into the 2012 London Olympic Games with the hopes of a nation weighing heavy on her shoulders. She duly delivered on the biggest stage of all, winning gold in the heptathlon to cap a remarkable Olympics for British athletes. An inspirational figure for fans young and old, Ennis-Hill retired with a further three World Championship titles and a European Championship gold medal to her name. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 New Year Honours for her services to athletics.

#6: Bobby Charlton
Football (1956-80)


A Manchester United legend who once held the record for the most goals and appearances for the Red Devils, Bobby Charlton won three league titles, an FA Cup and the European Cup during his 17-year stay at Old Trafford. A popular figure among England fans, the attacking midfielder won 106 caps for the Three Lions, scoring 49 goals and played an instrumental role in the team that won the World Cup in 1966. The first name on the team sheet for club and country, he remains among the most naturally talented players to ever grace the beautiful game.

#5: Paula Radcliffe
Marathon (1992-2005)


She may have failed to earn a medal at four consecutive Olympic games but Paula Radcliffe’s achievements in the world of women’s marathon running speak for themselves. A three-time London marathon winner, the British long-distance running star also won the New York marathon on three separate occasions. She also broke the Women’s World Record for the fastest ever marathon and has World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medals to her name. Not bad for someone who suffered from both asthma and anaemia in their younger years.

#4: Steve Redgrave
Rowing (1984-2000)


One of the greatest Olympians in British sporting history, Steve Redgrave holds the distinction of being the only man to win five gold medals across five different Olympic games in an endurance sport. Not only that, but Redgrave holds a further three Commonwealth Games gold medals along with nine World Rowing Championships golds. All of which is made even more incredible when you consider he has suffered from type 2 diabetes for much of his life. An inspirational sporting figure in the world of rowing and beyond, his feats may never be matched.

#3: Andy Murray
Tennis (2005-)


After 77 years of near-misses, Andy Murray finally delivered what sports fans from across the UK had been crying out for: a British champion at Wimbledon. The Scot saw off Novak Djokovic in straight sets to win at SW19 in 2013 and duly followed that success up with another Wimbledon crown in 2015. Along the way he’s also claimed a US Open crown, two Olympic Gold medals and played an instrumental role in Britain’s unlikely Davis Cup success in 2015. Move over Fred Perry – it’s Andy Murray’s time to shine as Britain’s greatest ever tennis player.

#2: Mo Farah
Athletics (2005-)


The man behind the Mobot, Mo Farah was one of the breakout stars of the 2012 London Olympics, where his athletic feats and modesty made him a popular figure among fans. Winner of two gold medals at those games, Farah’s form continued on to the Olympic Games in Rio, four years later, where he successfully defended his 5,000m and 10,000m titles. He was only the second athlete ever to do so and, having already won the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, was able to complete the famous “quadruple-double”.

#1: Chris Hoy
Cycling (2000-13)


The man who helped put British cycling on the map, Chris Hoy is the track cyclist to end all track cyclists. The second most decorated Olympic cyclist of all time, a tally of six Olympic Golds and 11 World Championship golds speak for themselves. The first man since Henry Taylor in 1908 to win three golds at a single Olymics and Scotland’s greatest ever Olympian, Hoy changed the face of UK cycling and spearheaded arguably Britain’s most sustained period of dominance in any single sport. A legend.
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